This book caught my eye at the library. Once I picked it up, I devoured it very quickly. It was challenging, offensive, disturbing, but mostly thought-provoking. It is a memoir of a radical lesbian activist in her attempts to understand the religious right. She cuts through the rhetoric and the “culture wars” and manages to see good in the people she hates.
Donna goes undercover to such far-right groups as the Promise Keepers (dressed as a teenage boy) and a women’s evangelistic/makeover (yeah, totally scary) service. She feels drawn; she feels welcomed; she feels accepted in a way that she had only experienced before in her sexuality/activism.
In the end, while not changing in her politics or spiritual beliefs, she changes. She begins to see the similarities between her own movement and the religious right. When visiting the Focus on the Family headquarters, she “resisted the compulsion … to remove my wig and reveal the butch haircut underneath, crying…, ‘Homosexuals are angelic,’ and another strong temptation to fall on my knees, confess my sins, and join the happy Focus family. Infiltration, hiding, disguise, the constant danger of conversion and the inescapable desire for it are dominant metaphors for both us and them, the religious right and the gay movement. And they’re the burning core of our fantasies about each other, too” (82).
She also learns about herself – sex changes for her, from being something to be praised only when in excess or in applauding “all that is ‘evil’ and ‘transgressive’ in sex” (front cover), she states, “I am still trying to learn to have enough. The prig in me is the same being as the one who thinks that only sex is holy, that I am worthless and filthy without the purifying sacred fire. The one who holds back is the same girl who explodes” (171).
She views herself as being in a “new land” or a “garden.”
I could see that there was no redeemer. No enslaver. Only other people.
I approached them with great joy.
When I learned that nothing could save me, I discovered nothing could damn me, either.
The subject of this book has been the Other … – the enemy, the beloved, and everything in our own lives that we would like to externalize … Everything I had fled from was a part of me…
I discovered there were other reasons for seeking out the Other than to substitute for a debt that can never be paid or deliver me (174-175).
I appreciated her tone, overall, because while at times she was vitriolic, biting, and sarcastic, she approached her subjects with respect and was penetrating of what was going on internally. She was as critical of her own movement as she was of the religious right, and came to understand that neither could bring ultimate fulfilment.
Ferocious Romance was a challenge… and a pleasure.